Free Inquiry
Appeared in Secular Humanist Bulletin, vol 22 issue 1

Was It Right to Publish the Islam Cartoons?
YES: In Defense of Blasphemy

Paul Kurtz and Tom Flynn

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 22, Number 1 (Spring 2006).

We appreciate David Koepsell’s dissenting viewpoint. But we disagree with him.

We stand by the decision to publish four of the Danish cartoons.

The basic question is whether editors should be intimidated by the possible violent reactions by religious militants, who have no compunction about criticizing and defaming anyone who disbelieves in their faith. We should not retreat for fear that we might offend them.

The Danish editor who first published the Muhammad cartoons has been hounded out of his position and forced into hiding in order to save his life. Many editors in the Arab world who published the cartoons have been forced to resign or have been imprisoned, and dozens of innocent bystanders have been killed in riots.

The objection of Muslims is not simply to the cartoons but to anyone who attempts to depict Muhammad. If Muslims have a right to inflict violent jihad against innocent people—in the name of Allah—then we have a right to caricature those who would commit crimes and demand immunity from criticism.

The right of expression is precious and needs to be defended. Political satire is a vital part of any exchange of ideas and values in a democratic society. The pen is mightier than the sword. It should not be censored.

There is currently a movement worldwide to prohibit any form of expression that blasphemes a religion; cartoons critical of religion would no doubt be considered blasphemous. We need to defend that right—to affirm the right to blaspheme by exercising it. Would that we lived in a polite world of scholarly debate. It is clear that one cartoon may be worth a thousand syllogisms.

If Free Inquiry had not printed these caricatures, that would betray the principles that we believe in. The previous issue of Free Inquiry has drawings of Jesus wearing a crusader’s helmet. Should we have not published that because it may offend some people? To cave in would be to concede the case of those who wish to silence us.

Paul Kurtz and Tom Flynn, are Editor-in-Chief and Editor of Free Inquiry.

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